WATCH LIVE: 2020 vice presidential debate: COVID-19 at forefront as Pence, Harris square off

Posted at 12:04 PM, Oct 07, 2020

As the chaotic 2020 presidential race enters its final stretch, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will square off in a debate at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

The COVID-19 pandemic will be at the forefront of Wednesday's debate — both literally and figuratively. As the nation seeks more info regarding President Donald Trump's health amid his COVID-19 infection, both Pence and Harris have agreed to allow debate officials to install plexiglass shields next to their podiums.

Harris' staff initially requested the shields, citing the COVID-19 outbreak that's infected several White House staffers. After initially saying the shields were not necessary, Pence's staff agreed to the change on Tuesday night.

The Associated Press reports that both Harris and Pence tested negative for the virus on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday's debate will be broken into nine 10-minute segments. Each candidate will have two minutes to answer a question from moderator Susan Page, and the other candidate will then have two minutes to respond.

The 2020 VP debate will likely hold more important than in years past, given the ages of Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump, 74, was the oldest candidate ever to be elected president in 2016, and Biden, 77, is three years older than Trump. Amid a global pandemic, voters may be taking a keen interest in each administration's chain of command.

The Trump campaign is banking on a strong performance from Pence amid slumping poll numbers. An average of national polls shows Biden leading Trump by about nine percentage points, and a recent CNN poll released this week showed that 57% of likely voters favored Biden, compared to just 41% for Trump.

Wednesday may also mark the last debate for at least a few weeks. There are two more presidential debates scheduled between now and Nov. 3, but Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis has put the status of the second debate — currently scheduled for a week from Thursday — in doubt. Trump says he still plans to participate, but Biden has said the debate should not take place if the president is still infected with the virus due to safety concerns.